Report: Nationals and Dodgers ‘Definitely Out’ of Harper Race, Giants and Phillies Considered Favorites

With full awareness that Bryce Harper fatigue has long since set it and that your “consider the source” alarms are sounding, we’ve reached the point of no return here. By that I mean the finish line is only steps away and there’s a compulsion to see this thing through to the bitter end.

As such, we bring you the latest from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who joined Gary & Larry on KNBR 1050 out of San Francisco to discuss the Giants’ pursuit of Harper. Several different teams have been viewed as favorites to land the outfielder over the last few months, with the Nationals making at least two offers and the Phillies looming as a near certainty just a couple weeks ago.

But with no agreement in place, two West Coast teams have emerged and now are leading the pack. According to Vegas odds posted Tuesday, the Giants were big favorites (1/1) and the Padres were running second (5/2). The Phillies were not far behind (4/1), but the Dodgers (15/2) and Nationals (10/1) had faded.

What’s really wild about the Giants running so hot is that every report says they’re not willing to get anywhere near either the 10 years or $300 million Harper has already turned down. But they may be open to making him the highest-paid player in the game according to AAV and they’ve got the added benefits of playing both their spring and regular-season games relatively close to Las Vegas.

“What their game plan is is they’ll probably offer a 5-6 year deal at good money,” Nightengale said. “Probably $30 million a year or so, or probably more even, to try to get him. And say, ‘You know what, do you want a short-term contract to come to San Francisco, or do you want a long-term contract and go to Philadelphia.’”

Nightengale went on to declare the Nationals and Dodgers “definitely out of it,” though some of his skeptics will surely take that as a sign that Los Angeles is scheduling a press conference for Wednesday.

“Right now I really do think it’s the Giants and the Phillies,” Nightengale continued. “It’s a two-team race here. With the Giants moving in and all the optimism, I do believe it’s a coin flip. I think for the Phillies to get Harper, they’re going to have to grossly outbid the Giants to get him, I really do. I think if it’s close he goes to San Francisco.”

This fits with the idea that Harper doesn’t really want to play in Philly, whether it’s out of some lingering loyalty to his former team or a disdain for the city itself. Or it could simply be that his strong preference is to remain closer to his offseason home, something that’s been surmised since rumors about his pending free agency began two years ago.

What’s interesting here is that Nightengale seems to be dismissing the Padres, who Vegas still likes quite a bit. I’ve got no idea how Harper is weighing various factors, but if I was making my choice based on overall quality of life, I’d rank San Diego at the top of the list.

You may have also noticed that neither Chicago team was mentioned, and for good reason. The White Sox have long seemed much more engaged with Manny Machado, and the Cubs’ professed budgetary restrictions have handcuffed them all winter. Could either swoop in at the last second and shock the world? Sure, but don’t count on it.

I do firmly believe the Cubs and Harper still harbor mutual affection for on another and would ultimately love to make something happen, but the reality of the situation is that it’s just not going to work out. Well, it’s probably not going to work out. Nothing is definitive until Harper’s buttoning up a jersey at his introductory presser.

If you’d like to listen to the full interview with Nightengale, you can do so here:

Ed. note: Brooks Boyer, White Sox SVP of Sales and Marketing, had an interesting conversation with Mully & Haugh Tuesday morning. He sort of paraphrased P.T. Barnum in discussing the possibility that the team would land neither big star, saying something like, “At least people are talking about the White Sox.”

And that’s what he should say, since his purview is selling tickets and promoting the product they have, not signing players and marketing hopes alone. Beyond that, he’s right. The same report of the Giants’ lack of desire to go huge on a contract noted that Jerry Reinsdorf was not willing to set the market. But the mere fact that the Sox have been so actively involved this winter is a boon to their organization as a whole.

I’m sure most CI readers may find that apropos of nothing, but I wanted to find an unobtrusive way to fit it in.

Update: While we don’t exactly know what the definition of “short-term” is — it could be anything less than 8-10 years or, more likely, anything less than 3-5 — Harper isn’t settling for that.

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